How to Avoid the 5 Worst Interior Design Mistakes
Kanebridge News
Share Button

How to Avoid the 5 Worst Interior Design Mistakes

Professionals say young people setting up their own digs tend to make similar decorating errors.

By Rachel Wolfe
Fri, Aug 6, 2021Grey Clock 4 min

AFTER 16 MONTHS cooped up with roommates or parents, young (and not-so-young) people have had enough. Those who can afford it are increasingly moving into their own first places when their leases end this summer and autumn, said a spokesman for real-estate rental site StreetEasy. Searches that specified studio apartments are up 69% year-over-year.

When it comes to decorating these solo nests, however, designers say first timers’ greenness leads to errors: from cramming oafish sofas through doors they failed to measure to living sans civilities like curtains and rugs. As New York City designer Phillip Thomas said, “Just because it’s your first apartment doesn’t mean it can’t have a sense of sophistication.”

Here, design pros highlight the five flubs that novice renters most frequently make on their way to, as millennials call it, “adulting.” Plus: chic alternatives.

1. The Unconquered Divide

Generations of squished people have passed down various methods to separate a studio apartment into living and sleeping spaces: curtains, free-standing screens, bookshelves, even a delineating row of jungle-y plants. They all can make a space feel smaller, said Francesca Bucci, founder of BG Studio in Manhattan. Mr. Thomas noted that such barriers frequently cut off window light, creating a murky cave. “There is nothing more awful than living in a space without light,” he said.

Instead: Rather than placing your bed’s headboard against a wall, Ms. Bucci directed, “float” the bed, with the foot facing a window and leaving at least two feet of circulation at the bottom. A medium-height headboard will act as a divider without depriving the rest of the studio of natural light. Arrange your seating area on the other side of it, backing your couch against it. This way you won’t subject guests to your rumpled pillows or that stuffed animal from which you haven’t managed to brutally sever ties just yet.

2. Helter-Skelter Inheritances

Beware a hodgepodge of hand-me-down furniture relatives have cast off. Manasquan, N.J., designer Christina Kim warned that, “the scale of such furniture is usually off, and a mix of too many styles can feel chaotic.”

Instead: “Do not feel obligated to accept every piece that comes your way,” said Mr. Thomas. If a donation doesn’t work with your décor, politely decline it or modify the offering so it suits your style. In his first rental, in Washington, D.C., Mr. Thomas draped quilts and tossed cut-velvet pillows to align random sofas with his aesthetic.

3. Place-Holder Art

Worried about forfeiting security deposits, renters often settle for a few posters hung with adhesive strips, complained New York City designer Young Huh. Even with more ambitious prints or paintings, noted fellow Manhattan designer Starrett Ringbom, newbies tend to hang them too high, mounted in cheap plastic frames.

Instead: Invest in some spackle. “Patching and painting at the end of the lease—even if only a year—is a small price to pay for an inviting and collected home,” Ms. Huh said. Hang art at eye level for comfortable viewing, advised Ms. Ringdom, who also contends that having art professionally framed is a worthwhile investment. “A silver-leaf frame instantly elevates a poster from your last museum visit into art worthy of the living room wall,” she said.

4. Single-Source Sameness

“It’s so exciting getting your first place, and often you’ll shop for everything at once from the same big-box store,” said Lauren Wall, co-founder of Principle Faucets, in Santa Cruz, Calif. But can a single retailer really represent your many-faceted personality?

Instead: “Invest some time in searching for killer, high-quality resale pieces to mix with budget-friendly new items,” Ms. Wall suggested. Your space will have “more intention and character” than if you buy everything at once. Mr. Thomas recommended searching estate sales and online auctions. And don’t just fixate on how a particular piece looks in the context of a catalog photo: Catalina Echavarria, co-founder of Miami furniture and interior design firm CEU Studio, suggested you shop in person, if possible, and think about how you’ll use the item. “If I sit on a couch, I want to feel hugged and nurtured…if I step on a rug, I want to love it barefoot and feel its texture,” she said.

5. Casting a Bad Light

If you think you’re all set with your landlord’s flush-mounted ceiling lights (aka “boob lights,” so christened because they often take the form of hemispheres of milky glass with nipple-like finials), think again. “Overhead lighting is unflattering and ineffective for tasks such as reading,” said Washington, D.C., designer Annie Elliott, who pointed out that these fixtures often use bulbs that cast white walls in eerie, blue-ish, hospital-like glows.

Instead: Buy a cheerful table lamp to add color, style and, of course, light, said Ms. Elliott. “It will elevate the entire room.” Warm, yellow-toned lightbulbs will help create a homey feeling. Swap out your landlord’s ceiling bulbs and store them so you can replace them when you move out.

ODD SQUAD

Pros recall weird first-time decorating moves

“Beach chairs as lounge chairs. Keep the outdoor furniture outside!” — Marc Bacher, founder, Stuga, Austin, Texas

“Beer cans stacked to create a base and a piece of glass on top. Creative way to recycle but not a good look when you are trying to look grown-up. I’ve also seen bed sheets nailed to the window frame as curtains.” — Amanda Thompson designer, New York City

“A shelf of glass bottles filled with highlighter-infused water to display with black lights. Actually, just say no to black lights to begin with.” — Lauren Wall, co-founder, Principle Faucets, Santa Cruz, Calif.

“A contractor’s work light, with the plastic cage, draped over a bookcase.” — Annie Elliot, interior designer, Washington, D.C.

“Furniture fashioned out of cinder blocks. It was ominous.” — Christina Kim, interior designer, Manasquan, N.J.

 

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: August 5, 2021

MOST POPULAR

Interior designer Thomas Hamel on where it goes wrong in so many homes.

Following the devastation of recent flooding, experts are urging government intervention to drive the cessation of building in areas at risk.

Related Stories
By Robyn Willis
Fri, Aug 5, 2022 2 min

When people talk about making a seachange, chances are this is the kind of property on the NSW South Coast that they have in mind.

Open for inspection for the first time this Saturday, 24 Point Street Bulli offers rare absolute beachfront, with never-to-be-built-out north facing views of the ocean. Located on the tip of Sandon Point, this two-storey property is a surfer’s dream with one of Australia’s most iconic surf breaks just beyond the back wall.

On the lower floor at street level, there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms, including a family bathroom and an ensuite in the master suite. A fourth bedroom is on the upper floor, along with the main living area, and is serviced by its own bathroom. 

While this would make a spectacular holiday home, it is well equipped for day-to-day living, with a spacious gourmet kitchen and butler’s pantry set into the articulated open plan living area on the first floor. A separate media room to the street side of the property on this level provides additional living space. 

Every aspect of this property has been considered to take in the light and views, with high ceilings internally and spacious, north facing decks on both levels to take in views of rolling waves. If the pull of the ocean is irresistible, it’s just a 100m walk to feel the sand between your toes.

The house is complemented by a Mediterranean, coastal-style garden, while the garage has room for a workshop and two car spaces.

An easy walk to Bulli village, the property is a 20 minute drive from the major hub of Wollongong and just over an hour to Sydney.

 

Open: Saturday August 6 2pm-3pm Auction: Saturday September 3 Price guide: N/A but expected to exceed $5.3m paid in March for 1 Alroy Street 

Contact: McGrath Thirroul – Vanessa Denison-Pender, 0488 443 174